Human Relations In Virginia Woolf's Essay 'The Dead'
Gretta loosely follows the gender stereotype or concept of the nurturing mother. She nurses Gabriel’s mother “during all her….illness” (Joyce 1) but somehow is not anxious about her kids because “Bessie will look after them” (Joyce 1). This connects to the previous idea concerning Gretta’s liminal state. She realizes what she is supposed to be for society and for her husband, but certain events lead the reader to believe her mind is truly elsewhere (i.e., her ideal life with Michael perhaps). Gabriel on the other hand, is very content fulfilling his position as the domineering paterfamilias of the family. First Gabriel tells the reader he is proud of the fact that “she was his” (Joyce 1), then Gretta seemed like she needed someone to “defend her against something,” (Joyce 1) then he explains his “desire to seize her” (Joyce 1) and finally he “longed to crush her body against his, to overmaster her” (Joyce 1). As shown, Gabriel assumes his position appropriately. He recognizes Gretta as property that needs to be protected, and he attempts to stifle his desire to take Gretta as he please (in a true animalistic sense). To briefly digress, this is an instance where Gabriel thinks in a dualistic sense. He looks to protect Gretta, but also master her. A delicate balance between good and bad ways of thinking. While Gabriel struggles to hold on to gender norms and roles, Gretta is arguably letting go. It is possible to read into Gretta’s reply to Gabriel’s questioning. Gretta replies to his questioning (concerning her health) that she is “tired: that’s all” (Joyce 1). Perhaps this tiredness connects to the fact that he is tired of the charade of her marriage and more importantly tired of the charade she plays within the marriage. In “The Dead” Joyce is illustrating the power of social norms and how they affect those